A computer lab technician accused of fatally shooting his pregnant estranged wife and two other women in the county courthouse was ordered held without bond Friday pending filing of charges.
Timothy C. Blackwell, 47, stood by his public defender and didn’t speak during his 15-minute appearance before King County District Judge Darcy Goodman. The hearing was at a courtroom in the county jail, two blocks east of the downtown building where the shootings took place Thursday.
Deputy prosecutor Rene Cespedes said in court that prosecutors plan to charge Blackwell with three counts of aggravated firstdegree murder - the only crime in Washington punishable by death. They have 30 days from arraignment to decide whether to seek the death penalty. The only alternative punishment upon conviction is life in prison without parole.
Prosecutor Norm Maleng said earlier at a news conference that his office may also charge Blackwell with first-degree manslaughter for the death of the fetus carried by his wife, Susana Remerata Blackwell. She was seven-to-eight months pregnant by another man.
“The preliminary investigation suggests that the suspect intentionally shot his pregnant wife in the abdomen, knowing that she was pregnant,” Maleng said. “The law allows the filing of manslaughter-first degree charges when a person intentionally kills an unborn child by inflicting injuries upon the mother of the child.”
Blackwell met his wife through an international matchmaking service and flew to the Philippines to marry her in March 1993. The couple broke up less than two weeks after she came to the United States in early 1994.
He contended she swindled him into marriage. She said he was abusive.
On Thursday morning, minutes before a scheduled court hearing for closing arguments on Blackwell’s petition for an annulment, gunfire erupted in a hallway on the second floor of the courthouse.
Police say Blackwell, dressed in a suit and striped tie, opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, shooting his wife and two of her friends, Phoebe Dizon, 46, of Seattle, and Veronica Laureta, 42, of Mountlake Terrace. All were seated on a bench waiting for the annulment hearing to start.
Susana Blackwell and her fetus and Dizon died at Harborview Medical Center shortly after the shooting. Laureta died early Friday morning during brain surgery at Harborview.
The shootings led to tighter security Friday at the 12-story courthouse, including the installation of metal detectors at the three public entrances.
Workers and visitors also had their bags checked, and extra security officers roamed the building.
The King County Council will vote Monday on County Executive Gary Locke’s emergency request for $412,000 to pay for the boosted security. The interim measures will be in place for 90 days while the council considers a permanent security plan.
“What we did this morning was done too late for yesterday’s victims, but it was done just in time for what would have been the victims of tomorrow,” said the county’s presiding Superior Court judge, Anne Ellington.
She warned that judges won’t hold court sessions if they feel the building is unsafe.
A coalition of Asian Pacific and women’s groups said that while courthouse security is important, the real issue is domestic violence. Activists said many foreign-born women, particularly “mail-order brides,” fear leaving their abusive husbands for fear of deportation.
“What happened to Susana Blackwell and her friends is tragic but, sadly, not rare,” the coalition said in a statement. “And for women whose citizenship status depends on their husband’s, fear of deportation or of being left alone without family and friends often results in women staying with and enduring years of violence, with little hope of escape.”
Blackwell found his wife through a matchmaking service in Bellingham called International Connections. He went to the Philippines to meet her for the first time, and they married in the city of Cataingan, on the central Philippine island of Masbate, on March 31, 1993.
He returned to the United States, and she followed on Feb. 5, 1994. Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 17, they separated, and the husband filed for an annulment - a declaration that the marriage was invalid.
Blackwell contended she married him for his money and to get into the United States. She countered that he was abusive.
Blackwell was charged in Northeast District Court with misdemeanor assault on his wife after she told police he grabbed her hair and neck, pushed her face into the bathroom sink and hit her on the back of the head on Feb. 16, 1994. In the police report, Susana Blackwell also said her husband told her she had to stay in America for two years and pay him $500 a month to repay the $10,000 he spent to find, court and marry her.
The assault charge was dropped after Susana Blackwell didn’t show up for trial in June 1994.
Tim Blackwell denied he beat his wife.
In a May 1994 response to her husband’s annulment petition, Susana Blackwell said she feared her husband and denied duping him into marriage. She asked the court to grant a divorce instead of an annulment, and asked for $350 a month in alimony for six months.